Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just When I Thought I'd Run Out of Jerks in LFD

I probably should have a more upbeat subject to write about, but this just happened this evening and I don't have to go to work tomorrow, so I can stay up and blog. (Yay?)

After raid ended tonight I did a heroic with some guildies and then popped on my paladin alt. I had tanked my guild heroic so I figured I'd do some healing. After all, it was getting late and being a healer in a heroic is (most of the time) one of the easiest jobs there is. If the party overgears the content, a healer has to work to find something to do.

So naturally I got thrown into an Oculus run that has been only partially completed. The key roles being filled? The tank and the healer. The new tank asks: what happened? The party answers that there was a pull and the tank and healer left.

After a mess of dragon adds joined us while we were trying to kill some constructs (pro tip: don't bring over a bunch of dragon adds and then dismount so you can join the other not mounted people!) the tank and I could kind of see why. The tank was a bit of an impatient sort too, pulling as long as most of the group was there, which exacerbated the problem.

When we actually had to kite Mage-Lord Urom around his platform to keep people from standing in the ice it was pretty apparent that this group was... well... appropriately geared (or appropriately dps-ing) Oculus with 1300-1500 dps being the norm.

It might not have been too bad if not for the fact that there were so many bone-headed mistakes made by the dps, from going the wrong way, to dragging adds, and then taking forever to accept a rez or to follow the rest of the party.

But the icing on the cake was the death knight who was rolling Need on everything because he was an enchanter. Green ring popped up? Need. Blue pants? Need. Everything he could Need on was Needed while everyone else respectfully did a Greed or DE on it.

Sadly my attempt to vote kick failed, though I'm not sure if the group was just apathetic enough to not care or it had something something with the Oculus vehicle mechanism. I thought after patch 3.3.3 a window was supposed to pop up so players could give a reason for the kick but I never got that, and with all the mounting and dismounting I only had a brief window of time we weren't mounted and weren't in combat to try kicking him.

I admit I was annoyed enough that I might have let him die on Mage-Lord Urom. He and the ret pally were obliviously standing in the ice (which is fine with a high dps group, but not with this one) and it would have been difficult to save both of them, so I had to make a triage decision. Ret pally it was.

The DK died and Mage-Lord Urom only dropped caster items so the DK couldn't Need on them.

Then we went up to Eregos and the fight went reasonably well, though the dps obliviously didn't attempt to move away from the planar anomalies (and by that I really mean the ret pally and the DK, the hunter's dps wasn't good, but you could see he was trying).

It seems the DK managed to die though, mostly by not being anywhere in range of a heal. I was with the tank, and if I'm riding the only green drake I'm not going to bother trying to heal anyone who requires me to move away from the red one.

We opened up the treasure chest, people Greeded the orb and the cloth piece (we had no clothies), and everyone Greeded the dps plate legs... except for two people, me and the DK. I waited, because I wanted to see what the DK would do.

After a period of time, people taking turns getting their bags out of the chest, and a couple people even dropping group, the DK hit Need. I did too. And I got the pants. I couldn't shard them, but I sure could vendor them.

Yes, it may have been petty, but to not Need them would have been to give them to him and I wasn't about to do that.

I've run into lots of people in LFD... elitists, newbies, high strung folks who are really picky about buffs, that guy who seems to be having a one-way conversation with the party, and of course the Need on Frozen Orb folks who were doing it long before 3.3.3 gave the orbs any value, but this is the first time I've run into a person who activately Needed on every possible item the game would allow him to equip.

That was just... wow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Plight of the Gear Score Reject

We have a lot of temps in my office. They come and go in cycles, many of them returning for multiple contracts with us. One of them is a WoW player, and I hadn't seen him in a few months, but he came back today.

He's in much the same position as my feral druid, in that he's on a server largely by himself with no support. The first thing he said to me after the pleasantries was, "I want to kill whoever came up with Gear Score."

My initial thought was perhaps he was undergeared, because I knew he was a non-raiding casual player, more of a once or twice a week person rather than the daily sort, but he rang up 4900 on the Gear Score mod. That pretty much means he's exhausted every piece of triumph gear he could possibly buy. My feral was 4900 even while wearing a piece of T10. The dude's geared for ICC 10. The problem was, no one would take him.

One issue is that he's a rogue. Properly geared tanks and healers can get spots because the dps need them, but when the 5.9k gs rogue is barking in trade about how he needs a non-fail ICC 10 pug, who are you going to bring? The 4.9k or the 5.9k? It's not that he lacks the gear. It's that people would rather take someone who already knows the fights and probably can carry the rest of the raid.

I admit I kind of laughed the matter off to our temp, not to be mean, but because I didn't think he should be so glum about it. Where there's a will there's a way. I told him about my feral, who has been to ICC 10/25 three times now despite barely breaking the 5k mark.

He has a couple options available to him. One is to gear up through ToC/Onyxia 25 pugs. Sometimes people ask for gear scores for those, but not always. The first and only time my feral cleared ToC 25 was with a pug that didn't ask for gear score or an achievement. (Oddly enough, the pugs that did, failed.)

Why was that pug good? I went on a run where a trinket was reserved. It was a bunch of raiders from an established raid guild running a pug to help their friend. Check the guild tag of the person who's running the pug when it's a reserve run. If it's a good raiding guild, there are probably several guildies going along to help out.

The other option is to get gold, a lot of it. ICC BoEs can be found in the AH and there are several nice crafted pieces from ToC and ICC. One of my guildies has an alt with 5200 gear score and has never done ToC 25 or set foot in ICC past a rep farming run.

In addition to that, GDKP runs are cropping up on a lot of servers these days. Money talks. I'm sure the raid leader of the GDKP run I went on last Friday was quite happy to see me and the other feral druid bidding up to 11,000 gold on [Distant Land] (other druid won, I capped out at 10k). My gear's borderline for ICC 25 and I was bottom of the dps meter, but as a person with a pocketbook the GDKP leader wants me to come. Even if I didn't win, my bidding fueled the other druid's bidding, and in turn led to a larger pot for the raid as a whole.

What I told our temp is to find a way to work the system. I hear people whining in trade about gear score and proof of achievements and I agree it's unfortunate, but pugs aren't looking to give other people a chance. They either take an extra body because it doesn't matter how bad they are as long as they aren't afk and don't wipe the raid (my guild has done this on occasion for raid weeklies) or they look for the person who will give them the best chance for success (or maybe just a reasonable chance, if they've been waiting a while or are impatient).

So what he needs to do is give them a reason to bring him.

The very first ToC 25 I went on with my feral I told the raid leader my gear score, which wasn't that good, but I also told him point blank that I knew all the fights, could follow instructions, and that I would not die in a fire (and I didn't). I got the invite.

I don't think that works for every situation, but it helps to point out why a raid leader should take me over some other pugger and, depending on what the raid leader thinks of their current raid setup, allows them to make an educated decision. It turns out that ToC 25 pug couldn't get past Faction Champs, and struggled with Jaraxxus, so my ability to not stand in fires was actually better than quite a few other people in the raid.

As a rogue, our temp could possibly tout his ability on interrupts (because there are a lot of fail rogues who don't), as well as following instructions and not dying in fires. He could conceivably sweeten the deal by offering gold if he "fails" so the raid leader knows he's serious. (Since he hasn't raided ICC he can't tout his knowledge of the fights, which is admittedly one advantage I have on my feral, since my main is farther in ICC than the GDKP runs I've been on.)

Then when he's lucky enough to get in a raid (either by convincing the raid leader or offering cash), he needs to not muck up. It can take a few runs to get any gear, just because of the luck of the drops, so the most important thing is to not be the dead weight that prevents the raid from getting those crucial achievements. My feral might have been the worst dps in her last ICC 25 GDKP run, but her dps is fine for her gear and she was not horribly behind the next two or three people. She's not dying in fire, ignoring calls to innervate or battle rez. She's not the idiot who can't follow instructions about where to take the slimes on Rotface. She doesn't get herself prematurely killed.

Sure, she's being carried, it was a GDKP run, but she wasn't making the job of the carriers harder than it had to be. There hasn't where a wipe where someone could say, "Oh, that's because Darkker screwed up."

I finally went on an ICC 10 with my feral the other night, after having linked my achievements showing my 25-man Rotface, Festergut, and Blood Prince kills. I told the raid leader I hadn't done 10-man before though, so he wouldn’t be surprised when the achievements rang up.

It was a so-so raid, only clearing the Lower Spire, but considering I've had fail ToC 10s that didn't make it past Northrend Beasts, I guess it wasn't so bad. And the fact I got to go at all was largely due to the achievements I'd earned from the 25-man GDKP run.

Where there's a will there's a way, even on a server dominated by gear score lovers.

And there is something of a final option for someone who wants to put a boot through gear score and pretend it doesn't exist, and that's scouting out another, less progressed server that doesn't care. On Skywall, where my main is, you will never see a pug raid forming with the request for your gear score. In fact, I have my gear score add-on turned off on Skywall. If I have to fill an open spot in a raid I care more about what a person has done rather than the ilevel of their purples.

We're not as progressed over here and I'm sure anyone with 4-piece T9 would be welcome in an ICC10 pug. The pug might not get as far as others on other servers, but the 80 that's completely run out of triumph upgrades will get to go. Particularly on Skywall, because we're more casual focused, there are more people with ICC item levels who aren't nearly as progressed as my 10-man guild, so the value of the gear score add-on (in relation to expected performance) is much reduced.

But it's a trade off, ICC 25 pugs are crazy rare, ToC 25 a little less so. When the best raid guild on the server hosts a GDKP run it's ToC 25 rather than ICC 25. Raids on Skywall are more likely to give newbies a chance because the expectations of a pug's progression aren't as high.

I hesitate to say that Skywall's totally in the sticks for raiding, because it's not, there are servers behind us as well, but we've always been one of the more casual servers (even our top raid guild doesn't raid more than three nights a week) so it's more forgiving to the casual player because of it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First GDKP Run: ICC 25

Well, I wanted to go to ICC on my feral druid... and I did.

Dark Iron is a fairly hardcore server for raiding. The top guild on Horde is one of the top 100 in the world, having downed several bosses on 25-man heroic, and three other guilds have killed the 25-man Lich King. Another five are working on Arthas. Compare this to my primary server of Skywall... where the top guild is still working on the Lich King. Our guys are good, but they aren't crazy good.

So while Skywall hosts a ToC 25 GDKP, Dark Iron hosts an ICC 25 GDKP.

GDKP is typically a special kind of pug, first popularized on the Korean servers where players run a raid and the awarding of drops are decided not by main spec/off-spec rolls, but by who bids the most gold. Hence the G in GDKP. The "pot" or the "purse" of everything paid is divided equally among all comers in the end.

It's considered to be a drama free method of pugging because all the terms are disclosed up front, bidding is public, and the concept is simple. If you're willing to pay the most for an item, you're the one who gets it. Additionally, the gold is only divided up at the end, so if someone leaves early or they're so bad they get kicked they get nothing. It's incentive to play well and to stick it to the end.

For more reading I recommend the Elitist Jerks thread on the subject.

Because my feral is an alt with gold to burn and no raid schedule, GDKP runs are theoretically perfect for her. Consider that she is primarily in heroic and emblem gear (with one ring from ToC 25) with no prior proof of having done anything in ICC before. Link achievement? Not possible.

What normal pug would take her?

Admittedly, even the GDKP run almost didn't, because her gear is on the low side, and you do need to have some geared people to make sure those bosses go down. The raid leader said he would see how the raid shaped up when it was almost full, and eventually said no, leaving me to run a random heroic and feeling a little disappointed, but understanding. Then maybe a half hour later, he whispered me again asking if I was interested in filling in. Someone had left and they were at Gunship. I said yes in a heartbeat.

Being in that ICC 25 raid was… humbling. There were a lot of genuinely well-geared people on that run. If most of these people were on their alts (remember this was ICC 25!) I shudder to think what their mains are like.

I was never in the top 5 in a VoA or ToC 25 pug as a feral, but I was respectably middle of the pack. In ICC 25 I was… next to last for overall damage. I was beating the tanks for certain, but I never got higher than #12 on the damage meters for any boss fight.

But I did pass the idiot check. And so did the majority of the raid. The raid leader ran a tight ship. Instructions were clear and concise. People listened to them. Only once was there a call out for someone doing something completely wrong. We cleared seven bosses with only three wipes; one on Festergut, one on Blood Prince trash, and one on Blood Princes themselves.

Yes, this pug cleared seven bosses and my feral got to ride along with no prior ICC experience.

Money talks?

Because I was a last minute addition the raid leader actually didn't have an opportunity to check my finances, but people were supposed to bring 3k minimum with which to buy things and he had been checking in Dal before inviting people. I had 7k, and hoped I might pick up a couple items off the early bosses. The announcement stated that we were heading for Saurfang and anything beyond that would be dependent on the composition of the group. Truthfully, since this was a pug, I didn't expect we'd go beyond Saurfang, especially as a 25-man, so the fact we did was amazing!

It was a good experience, and I'm predisposed to go again, if they'll have me. I'll have a fatter wallet this time. (I walked out with no new gear, but 10 frost emblems and 4k gold!) Only one item dropped that I wanted, a ring off Rotface. I bid 4500g for it, but lost to our bear tank at 5000. Maybe I should've bid a little higher, but at the time I really wasn't certain how good the ring was since I hadn't checked out the boss drops past Saurfang.

I think there were several elements that made this a successful pug.

1) The gold requirement

If you want to come you must have gold. It shows you're capable of bidding and paying for items and stops the tourists who have no gold but just want to earn some of the pot. You could of course have money and never bid for a single thing, but a smart raid leader will watch out for those people and stop inviting them unless they're one of the powerhouse tanks/dps/heals that make the raid happen.

2) The gear requirement

I was the worst geared person in the entire raid, but was at the point where there was absolutely nothing left for me to buy with triumph emblems. To give you an idea, according to WoW Heroes my feral is perfectly geared for ToC 25 and ICC 10. This meant that the raid's potential dps was very high.

3) Experienced raiders

People were expected to know the fights. Bosses were not explained beyond sorting out assignments. Nobody failed for not knowing the fight, and fact was, very few people got achievements that night. They already had them. Even Rotface with all the slime management was a one-shot. I think we could've done Putricide given more time.

4) Good raid leadership

The raid leader was very aware and good at calling out events, whether it was managing people with spores on Festergut or people who had to run from flame spheres in Blood Princes. That he managed to do this as a healer was even more remarkable. He also had a very matter-of-fact tone of voice. He never got mad, but just laid things out as they were. He gave orders, expected them to be followed, and they were.

5) Professional attitude

Almost everyone had it. No one was whiney or full of themselves. Vent was clear of chit-chat. It was all business, very professional. Many of us left with a polite "Thank you, sir" for the raid leader, and all properly typed out.

So now I'm 4k richer, I have 25-man achievements to flash in my attempts to get in an ICC 10 pug, and I had one heck of a smooth run. It was just about everything I could have wanted from a pug raid.

I wish some more gear had dropped that I could have used though. I felt kind of bad that I didn't spend anything since I otherwise got so much out of it and the raid leader really did take a chance on me with my gear and no proof of experience. It opened some pugging doors for me and I'd hate for the raid leader to think I just came to freeload.

I can't say whether all GDKP runs are as good as this one. I haven't been to the one on Skywall yet (work keeps conflicting), but I think it's a certain type of player that comes to those runs, so that tends to weed out the poor performers. The participants need to know and understand how GDKP works, and those who don't bother to learn how the system works don't get that far. Also, participants need a decent amount of gold, and be willing to spend it.

Players will pay thousands for a choice epic (the [Shadow Silk Spindle] from Blood Princes last night went for 13k), but for a player to do that they need to understand the value of the item to them.

In a pug that does /roll, someone might very well roll on items that are negligible upgrades, upgrades that aren't really upgrades, or even technically off-spec (healers rolling on +hit gear). Would those same people drop 5k on the item?

GDKP ensures that the person who ends up with the item is the person who really wanted it. It won't stop off-specs, but people aren't likely to drop tons of money on something unless they're sure about it, and if they do drop a ton of money on it, everyone else is happy because they got compensated.

Over 100,000 gold was "spent" on last night's run, so everyone left with a pretty good payout even if they did get any items, and several said they'd be happy to come again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

[Druid] Does this mean I'm a real raiding kitty now?

My feral druid isn't part of a raid guild. She still sits in her mostly abandoned guild started by my coworkers, so if I do any raids with her it's always as a pug, which suits me fine because I can stop playing for a week or two and nobody wonders where I went (because I'm focused on my mains on my primary server).

I tend to be a little concerned about my status as a pugger though, always striving to not be bottom dps. As an alt in a land of ICC 25 geared mains I think it's a more reasonable goal than being top dps.

Since all I have are pugs, I don't want my time wasted by being incompetent or being kicked midway through a run for being incompetent, and I've been able to do that. Though there have been times where I've been completely wasted on the meters, it's typically not fair for me to gauge myself against mages, so I look for other melee, and in particular I look for other feral druids.

One night, after having not played my feral in a while, I wanted to do the raid weekly, but I couldn't seem to get a group for Malygos (maybe people have bad memories?) so I hopped in a VoA 25 led by one of the third tier casual raid guilds. They had a cat druid in there that was decently geared, mix of ICC Lower Spire and ToC stuff. Had the Death's Choice trinket. And here I was in nothing but heroic and emblem gear.

I fully expected to get my butt whooped on the meters, but surprise surprise, I was pulling about 6.2k and the other druid was lagging behind me by a reasonably steady 600-800 dps. It was a personal best for me (having an arms warrior really helped) so I was happy with myself.

The funny thing was, the other druid noticed what was happening as well, and I got a friendly whisper asking how I was beating him when he was better geared than me.

Cat dps is incredibly complicated, so I couldn't begin to tell him exactly what I was doing because there just wasn't enough time between trash and boss pulls. I told him basically that I tried to always keep Savage Roar up, keep Rake up (since arms warrior removes need for Mangle), Shred to 5 cp, and then Rip.

What I couldn't tell him was that I was weaving Ferocious Bites into my rotation (I'm just starting to get comfortable doing that) as long as there were 8 seconds left on Rip, that I was trying to use Berserk strategically during Bloodlust or a trinket proc, that I try to use Omen of Clarity procs for Shreds no matter what, that I try to be strategic about when I use my energy and for what so I don't find myself empty when I need to refresh an important buff/debuff, and most of all that I still considered myself a novice learning a very complicated spec to play. Cat dps is so frantic that knowing the priority list is still a far cry from executing it, which is why mods like FeralByNight (which suggests the player's next move) exist.

I really didn't feel qualified to be telling a raiding druid how to play his cat, and I'm guessing that if he goes to his guild's ICC 25s he's probably playing his main. He must have logged far more hours on his cat than I have on mine, and I'm not at the point where I can look at a damage breakdown in Recount and tell him that he's letting Savage Roar drop too much, or he's bad about refreshing Rake, or he doesn't use Tiger's Fury.

But I guess the fact that he asked at all means that my cat dps was respectable and maybe I wasn't quite the newbie that I thought I was. My feral occasionally got into pugs, but we're talking like raid weekly pugs. They kill a boss and that's it. She had only finished ToC once, and no pug would take her into ICC since her gear score is considered too low and she lacks achievements besides.

He asked how I opened to get Savage Roar up and I told him that I'd Mangle if it wasn't up yet, then follow it with a Rake, and then SR. The important thing is to get SR up and a couple combo points is enough, because it can be refreshed later.

Fast forward a couple weeks, again with minimal playtime on my feral, and I logged on last night thinking to do a daily random and work the AH.

I joined a pug VoA 25 that failed so hard that people left after the first wipe. Thinking I'd do Wintergrasp, since it was up in a few minutes, I queued and ran through my AH options while I waited.

Lo and behold, a ToC 10 group was forming in Trade. I figured ToC 10 might net me some nice gear, so I joined it and we cleared it, but I had no luck on drops (barring a leather caster helm for my rarely used healing set). I did get more emblems though, which was nice because my feral doesn't have the backlog of emblems my moonkin and my pally do. She was getting dangerously low if she wanted any gems for new gear.

After the ToC 10 I queued for a random heroic as dps, thinking to get some kitty practice in, but wait! Someone was LFM for Malygos Must Die! Well, that was a hard weekly to get a group for last time. Might as well go while someone was looking. I came out #1 dps and most stacks of the flame debuff on the boss. Nice to know I haven't lost it in all the months since he was top level content.

I queued in LFD again… and while I was waiting, minding my crafting for the AH, someone was LFM for ToC 25. My lucky night for pug raiding?

And in this raid was… that same feral druid from a couple weeks ago.

He was now gemmed completely for armor pen (I can't afford to, I don't have enough native armor pen on my gear), he had his two piece T10, and the majority of his gear was now from ICC 10/25 Lower Spire.

We sized each other up, and then we were off.

The gear advantage was showing more this time, my lead on Recount much narrower. As far as straight up dps went he was beating me, but I was consistently doing more damage; I had better uptime on my dps. I knew to pay attention to Recount this time to compare our performance, to see what we were doing differently, and the breakdown of our abilities was similar. Top 3 damage was from melee attacks, following by Shred, followed by Rip. He was doing more damage per attack, but I was doing more attacks.

Maybe I do know what I'm doing. Maybe I'm a real raiding kitty now. The difference between our damage done could be attributed to greater raid awareness or use of situational abilities (like Feral Charge to get back behind a boss after having to run away), not because we don't know the priority list of which abilities to use.

I want to get into an ICC run with my feral now. That might be too much to ask on a server obsessed with gear score and achievements (seriously, some people ask for VoA achievements when making a run), but I want to try.

Monday, March 1, 2010

[Druid] Spirit is the New Hit

Blizzard released a gigantic wad of information about how stats are going to work in Cataclysm. Most of the basics we already knew. Hunters won't have Int anymore because they won't care about mana, mp5 is going away, etc.

One of the things that had been mentioned though was that Spirit was going to be a healing stat, and all healers would want it (even paladins...). However, it's easy to produce cloth gear with no Spirit on it for mages and warlocks; less easy to to produce leather gear with no Spirit on it because that means there's balance druid gear that only moonkin will use and resto druid gear that only trees will use, and Blizzard doesn't like dropping items that are only good for one out of the thirty specs in the game.

So... how to get around that?

If you are a Balance druid or Elemental shaman:
  • You will still share gear with Restoration druids and shaman.

  • Your gear will have Spirit on it. It won’t have Hit on it.

  • You will have a talent that converts Spirit to Hit. We will adjust talents accordingly so that you want about as much Spirit as, say, a warlock wants Hit.

  • Hit on rings and other such gear will still benefit you.

  • Raid buffs will no longer boost Spirit, so you shouldn’t find yourself unexpectedly over the Hit cap because of buffs.

  • I admit when I first read that I was a selfish little moonkin and thought, "Why do we have to be the ones to covert Spirit to Hit instead of the trees converting Hit to Spirit?"

    Of course, it wouldn't be any more right to expect the trees to do the conversion.

    It just feels a bit clunky any way I look at it. I've never been a fan of convert X stat to Y other stat through talents or what-have-you. I was hoping during the Cataclysm overhaul we'd get away from that, but I guess not.

    It's too soon to see what the itemization is going to look like, but I'm concerned that if Spirit is piled on gear like it is now, we'll constantly be over the Hit cap. We don't need Hit on every piece of gear in ICC, but generally trees want Spirit on every piece of gear.

    Maybe after the stat overhaul Spirit will be used sparingly (especially since it will no longer scale with Blessing of Kings), so a little goes a long way and trees won't need as much of it to keep their regen.